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She sighed and leaned back in the chair. A glance down at the floor below let her know that Terry, Mike, and Todd were still unloading the crates that had been sitting in the warehouse for nearly a year. With the help of the three grad students, significant progress had been made in cataloguing the finds that waited in the Archaeological Center. Susan and Arlen Whitman were spending their time examining and repairing the finds - Stephanie and Ramir were helping them; and Casey had started translating several tablets. Three mentioned Geb, and one mentioned Penatil. She rested her chin in her hand. So far there had been no surprises, nothing more than the usual accolades to these supposed 'gods'. One of the tablets that referred to the Goa'uld seemed to be some sort of tax record for a long lost and forgotten city.
She started. 'Right here, Sweetheart.'
'Where are you?'
'Office in the Center. Working on a couple of translations. Why?'
'I need you to come take a look at something.'
'On my way.' She organized her notes, left them with the tablets, and hurried down the stairs. "Terry, I'm heading into the mountain. I'll be in Daniel's office."
She relaxed against the wall of the elevator. Reached out and caressed him gently. Smiled when that caress was returned, his love wrapping around her protectively. It had become habit, for both of them, to reach out to one another mentally at least once during the workday. She had refrained from doing that while he was working, knowing that the 'interruption' would be frustrating.
A A A A A A
Daniel was still sitting at the worktable, however now he was leaning back, his arms crossed over his chest, a frown on his handsome face. He glanced up when she walked into the room.
There was something in his eyes that had her instantly on edge. "What's wrong?"
"Check this out." He held up an image.
She took the photograph and examined it. It was an aerial view of the encampment. Several people were visible, looking up, probably startled by the presence of the UAV as it flew over their tents. She gasped. "He's dead!"
"Yeah, that's what I thought."
Casey looked back at the image. Zinder was staring up, wide-eyed. "I don't believe this!" She could feel her body start to tremble. "How did he wind up here?"
"I don't know, Angel. Unless it's another Doppelganger thing happening."
She shook her head. "This just isn't possible! Darr Morgan blew that ship up! With him in it!"
"Case, we don't know for sure that Zinder was still in that ship. We heard a few screams, Darr met up with us on the ridge, then a few minutes later the ship blew."
"Maybe we should ask Darr about this," she said softly.
He looked up, saw the fear that had crept into her green eyes. Fear that had been blessedly absent for nearly five months. It wasn't as…intense…as her fear of Nergal had been. But it was there. "I was thinking the same thing. I'll have Kyle get a message to him. Don't worry about this, Angel. He can't hurt you. I just wanted to make sure it was really him."
"I know. I'm okay, really," she said. Her smile was small, and didn't brighten her eyes.
Mmmhmm. 'Okay'. Like hell she's 'okay'. Well, hopefully she'd be able, be willing to talk to him about whatever was bothering her before they left on this mission. "You're sure?"
She leaned down, wrapped her arms around his shoulders, kissed his cheek. "I'm sure."
He studied her for just a minute, then nodded. He stood to his feet, stretched, then began to gather his notes.
"Are you going to tell Duncan and Jack about this?"
He looked over at her. "Of course, why wouldn't I?"
"No reason. I was just wondering."
"Casey? Talk to me," he said softly.
"I was just…it's possible that it's not Zinder, just a man who looks like him," she said, not looking at him.
"Yeah, I think that was already mentioned. Casey, what is it? What are you sensing?"
She shook her head. "Nothing."
He sighed, tried to rein in his frustration. She wasn't sensing anything because she wasn't trying to. Was probably trying hard not to 'see' anything. "Okay…reach out and tell me what you feel."
Casey lowered her head. She did not want to do this! "I'm really tired, Daniel. I spent all afternoon working on tablets-"
He took her chin in his hand, tilted her face up towards his. Waited until the green eyes that he loved so much finally met his. "It's all right, Angel. He can't hurt you," he repeated softly.
She reached out, only as far as the man standing in front of her, searched for and felt the love, let his touch calm her, reassure her. She closed her eyes, reached out farther. "There's nothing there. Nothing…bad."
"Good. Now, I’m going to go talk to Duncan and Jack. It shouldn't take me long. Then we'll call it a day."
"I'll just go back up to the Center and finish up a couple of things," she replied. "Tell me when you're ready and I'll meet you at the jeep."
He kissed her forehead. "Sounds good. Love you, Angel."
"Love you too, Stud Muffin." With a flutter of her fingers, and a smile that threatened to turn him to putty, she turned around and left the office.
He watched her walk away, the sway of her hips hypnotizing him. When she had turned the corner, he picked up his notes and headed for Duncan's office.
A A A A A A
"You're sure?" Duncan asked, frowning deeply.
"Very sure. I had Case take a look at them. She recognized him immediately," Daniel replied. "She suggested that we contact Darr Morgan and ask him if he killed Zinder or not."
Jack was frowning as well. "He's Immortal, all he had to do was get off that ship before it blew."
"I know," Daniel said quietly.
"Then the question becomes, how did he wind up light years away, with this particular band of nomads," Duncan said.
"It's possible that the nomads on Alteria are related to the nomads on RZ2 766," Daniel said. "There's a Stargate on both planets. If they couldn't or didn't use it, all they'd need would be a ship capable of hyperspeed, to take him from Alteria and left him there, for whatever reason. Zinder had a ship with hyperspeed capabilities."
"Well, I agree that this mission needs to happen. I know that you're anxious to examine the ruins. When do you plan to leave?"
"We can leave first thing in the morning," Jack replied.
Duncan nodded. "Okay, we'll debrief at 0800, then you can be on your way." The two men sitting in front of his desk nodded. "For now, let's just assume that this is Zinder. Which means I'm sending SG-6 and Marine 2 with you."
Jack nodded. "I like that idea. They can set up a perimeter while Danny does his digging."
"Okay, gentlemen, this mission is a go," Duncan said.
A A A A A A
Casey was waiting in the jeep, her bare feet on the dashboard, her sunglasses on, and her lower lip pulled between her teeth. Wishing she hadn't reached out again.
Daniel stopped and looked at her, for just a minute. She was so damned beautiful. She could have been a model sitting there, striking a pose. But the sign of worry bothered him. Since Nergal's death…supposed death...although she didn't know about him - yet, when the nightmares and 'episodes' had stopped plaguing her, the fear had left her eyes. She had laughed and smiled and been so happy…carefree. Her biggest worry had been what to fix for dinner. Or what color to paint the walls in the new house. He shook his head. I want to retire, he thought again. I want my Wife carefree again; I want her to stay carefree.
She jumped when he opened the door, let out a tiny whimper of surprise.
He frowned. "Casey?"
"I'm sorry. You just…startled me."
"Yeah, I figured that out. I didn't mean to. I thought that since I've been standing there for a couple of minutes that you had seen me."
She lowered her eyes. "I guess my mind was somewhere else," she said softly.
"So it would seem." He started the engine, pulled out of the parking space. He glanced over at her. She was still tugging that lower lip, and was staring out the side window, probably not seeing a thing that was passing by her. With a sigh, he turned right on Olive and headed for home.
The guard at the gate waved, as Daniel slowed down to enter the neighborhood. He waved back, and continued up half a block to the gray brick and clapboard house that Casey now loved so much. He turned into the driveway, punched the garage door opener, and slowly pulled into the garage.
He shut off the engine, turned to look at her. "Casey?"
She started again. "What?"
"Okay." She opened the door, he grabbed her arm.
"Babe, talk to me."
She shook her head. "It's not about Zinder," she said softly.
"Then what?" Her eyes had taken on the haunted look that had filled them from the first time they learned about Nergal. Oh, hell. She knew. "What is it, Angel?"
"Nergal," she whispered. "I…I felt him. He's…he's not…he's… not dead, Daniel."
He lowered his eyes. "I know."
"You know?" She stared at him for a minute. Her eyes narrowed. "You know? How long have you known?" she asked, her voice full of anger.
"Just a couple of weeks. Unlinkil has some spies that spotted him on Ashnan's home planet."
"I see. Were you ever going to tell me? Of course not! Why do I bother asking stupid questions like that? Keep the little woman in the dark…again! It would have been nice to know before I went out…there…searching…and ran into the bastard!" she ranted. "What is it with you guys? Why are you always doing this to me? Always keeping things from me, lying to me?" She threw the door open and climbed from the jeep.
"Casey! We didn't want to upset you!" He was out of the jeep as well.
She glared at him, shook her head, slammed the door shut and stomped into the house.
He ran his hand over his face. He should have expected this. She hated being kept in the dark about anything that concerned him, or SG-1. He followed her, wondering just exactly how he was going to make this up to her. Wondered briefly if he'd ever stop screwing up to where he had to make things up to her.
Emily and Nicholas were waiting to greet him, obviously they had already been hugged and kissed by their mother. He greeted his children, glanced up to see Erin looking at him oddly. She shook her head, then walked over and patted his arm.
"She's upset. No, she's angry. Very angry. What happened, Daniel?" Erin asked quietly.
"Uh…well, we found out a couple of weeks ago that Nergal is still alive. She just found out…she…uh…felt him."
Erin closed her eyes briefly, then looked up at her son-in-law. "Did you learn nothing from that mission with Neferteri? She hates being lied to, Daniel. Omission is the same to her."
Daniel cringed. He was well aware of Casey's distaste for lies. He hadn't thought about the mission that had nearly cost him everything. Obviously he should have. "I'll go talk to her."
"She may not be willing to listen," Erin warned. She gathered her things and walked toward the door. "Tell her the truth, and tell her that you love her," she said. With an encouraging smile and a wave, she left the family alone…and Daniel and Casey to deal with the problem on their own.
He nodded, then followed the sounds of slamming drawers into their bedroom. Stopped and gasped when he saw what she was doing.
She glanced at him as she walked by, a load of clothes in her arms. She dumped them on the bed, then began to shove them roughly into her duffel bag.
"Babe, we need to talk," he said softly.
"You should have thought about that a couple of weeks ago," she replied. Her voice was cold. Her eyes blazed with anger.
He walked into the room, caught her arms, turned her to face him.
"Take your hands off of me, or so help me god I'll drop you where you stand," she hissed.
"Then do it, because I'm not letting go of you. I love you, Casey. I didn't want you to have the nightmares, because that would have happened. I didn't want you worried, or afraid. You deserve some peace, Angel. That's why I didn't tell you. I knew that sooner or later you would have to know. I wanted it to be later. As much later as possible," he said, his voice soft and full of love. He reached out to her, caressed her gently. Held his breath, waiting for her to touch him, caress him in return. Smiled when he finally felt her gentle presence.
"I hate being lied to," she said softly.
"We didn't lie to you, Angel. We just didn't give you all of the information that we had. Sam doesn't know either. In fact, only Duncan, Jack, Teal'c, your dad, Unlinkil and I knew," he replied.
She nodded slowly. "You should have told me, Daniel. I was at risk every time I…searched… when a team was sent out. Do you have any idea how…terrifying…it is to touch evil? To…run into it? Like I just did?"
He flinched. "I'm sorry, Angel."
"You should be. Now, let go of me. I have to unpack."
He dropped his hands. His heart was still hammering in his chest, but he was smiling now.
She turned away from him, gathered her things and took them back to the dresser.
"Mommy?" Emily was standing in the doorway.
"Hi, Baby. What do you need?" Casey asked, smiling at her daughter.
"Where you go?" The little face wore a frown of worry.
She glanced at her duffel. "I thought I had to go someplace, but Daddy…Daddy changed things so I don't have to leave," she replied softly.
Emily ran to Daniel and wrapped herself around his leg. "Daddy fixed it?"
Casey looked and Daniel and smiled. "Yes, Baby. Daddy fixed it."
'Are we okay, Angel?'
'I'm still upset about this.'
'But we're okay.' His smile warmed her heart, and his gentle caress wrapped around her. She closed her eyes as he sent his love to her, gently, softly. She sent hers in return, caressed away the worry that she felt there.
Emily looked from face to face, recognized smiles of love. She turned loose of her father, and trotted out the door toward her bedroom.
Daniel walked over to where Casey stood, wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close, sighed and closed his eyes when her arms went around his neck and held tightly. "I just love you so much, Angel, and I wanted to protect you, as much as I could."
"I…I haven't done a very good job of protecting you," he admitted softly.
"Framone took you from me…twice. Zinder took you. Nergal took you. I…I was just trying to-"
She put her fingers on his lips. Suddenly she understood why he hadn't told her about Nergal. Or Neferteri, for that matter. "Daniel, let all of that go! There was no way for you to know what Framone was going to do! As I recall, you saved me, rescued me, both times. You killed that bastard. Zinder didn't take me, Daniel, I went with him, because I had to. We both knew that. Nergal…well, that had to happen, too. You have always protected me. You have always been there when I needed you. You've always kept me safe, Daniel. Always."
He moaned softly and buried his face against the soft skin of her neck. "It doesn't feel that way," he said.
She pulled away, wrapped her hands around his face, looked up into his beautiful blue eyes. "Daniel, I never would have survived when Nergal captured me if not for you. Just…feeling you…being able to talk to you…kept me strong, able to deal with him. You saved me from him, My Heart. You never gave up, you searched until you found me when Framone took me. I knew that you would, and knowing that helped me to hang on. You kept me calm, and comforted me when we had to deal with Zinder. You have always kept me safe, Daniel. Always. Always."
He smiled down at her. "What you do to me, woman," he whispered. He lowered his head and kissed her.
Giggles and laughter from the doorway made them both turn and look. Nicholas and Emily stood there, their faces lit with laughter.
"Daddy, why do you always kiss Mommy?" Emily asked, her little head cocked to one side, doing an incredible imitation of her mother.
Daniel grinned. "Because I like kissing Mommy. I love her very much, and that's one way for me to show her."
The tot nodded. "Brandon kissed me. Right here," she said, putting her little fingers on her cheek.
Her father frowned. "Emily, I don't think-"
"Daddy thinks it's time for you and him to help me with dinner," Casey said, cutting him off. 'They're just kids, it's normal for this age.'
'I don't like it.'
She couldn't help but giggle. "I never would have guessed."
He couldn't help but smile. He kissed the tip of her nose. "I'll trust you on this one, Case."
"Good. Now, let's go see what we can find for dinner."
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